Dr Nelson received his M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine in 1975. He completed training in Emergency Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in 1979. He received a M.S. in Clinical Research Design and Statistical Analysis from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in 1995.
He served first as Director of the Division of Emergency Medicine (1985-1990) and then as Founding Chair , Department of Emergency Medicine (1990-1996) Texas Tech University School of Medicine. Since that time he has served as research director and program director in the same department. In 2008, Dr Nelson was appointed as Professor and Chair of Emergency Medicine in the new Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, the second medical school in the Texas Tech system.
Dr. Nelson has more than 50 academic publications and has served in various academic societies, including President of the Texas College of Emergency Physicians and Councilor for the American College of Emergency Physicians.